Medieval Monday. Meet Mary Morgan’s Villain

Are you enjoying the new style Medieval Monday?  I’m loving sharing the posts and following them around.  This week’s excerpt comes from  Dragon Knight’s Shield by Mary Morgan

BLURB:

Angus MacKay, leader of the Dragon Knights, failed his brothers and his clan upon the death of his sister. Now he must fight the darkness of despair tempting his soul. Back on Scottish soil, he comes face to face with Deirdre who can wield a sword as mightily as his warriors, and takes her captive. Yet, with each passing day, the fire dragon inside him roars to claim the one woman fate has destined for him. 

Famed mystery writer, Deirdre Flanagan, is unprepared for the next chapter in her life. On a vacation to Scotland, she steps through the mists and enters into a skirmish alongside a Highlander. However, the fight has only begun, and now she must battle Angus as well as evil in order to claim the love of this Dragon Knight.

Will their love be powerful enough to shield them from danger, or burn them to ashes? 

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“Raise the portcullis!” Angus’s order did not allow for any argument.

Releasing his brother, he walked to the entrance. Hearing the grate of steel being lifted, Angus let the fire dance along his fingers. Fear clawed at man and dragon as he waited for the monster to show himself.

In moments, Angus, horrified, watched Lachlan walk through the portcullis, clutching Deirdre’s bloodied arm while holding a blade to her back. She stumbled forward, and he pulled her back by her braid. His heart slammed inside his chest and it took all of Angus’s strength not to bring out the fire dragon. Blind rage filled him as the man’s laughter echoed all around him.

Follow along next week by checking out Jenna Jaxon’s blog with  excerpt #4 https://jennajaxon.wordpress.com/ and remember to come back here to see who I’m hosting next week.

 

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Medieval Monday- Meet Ashley York’s Villain

Welcome back to Week 2 of the villains theme.  Today I’m sharing an excerpt from Ashley York’s The Gentle Knight.

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Mort gave him a disgusted look. “You have ridden us hard, my lord. I believe I am not the only one who thinks so.”

“You’re complaining?” Peter tipped back for a second swallow.

Mort locked his jaw then walked through the door at the far corner.

One small window faced the road with enough grime on it to convince Peter that although the place was quiet now, it was not always so. A sure sign they would be able to meet all his required services.

BLURB: Brighit MacNaughton is an obedient daughter following her father’s death bed decree that she take her vows and become the virginal bride of Christ. The hired men seeing her to the Priory at Tanshelf are more interested in the building resentment against the English king than her safety. But when the handsome Norman knight offers his protection against the lecherous mercenaries, he sparks her passion with his gentle touch and smoldering looks of desire, reminding her of dreams best forgotten. Can one night with him quench the intense need in her or will it cause the fire to burn out of control?

Peter of Normandy is a trusted knight of King William, sent north to subdue the unrest and rumblings of revolt at York. Giving aid to an Irish princess more noble than many knights, he is quickly overcome with the need to possess her. With a body meant for a man’s pleasure and an unrelenting stubbornness to follow her father’s wishes, he struggles against giving her what she wants if it can only be for one night. Will one night of passion prove to be enough or will it unleash an insatiable need that makes him never want to let her go?

Follow along next week by checking out Jenna Jaxon’s blog with excerpt #3 https://jennajaxon.wordpress.com/

If you can’t wait for the next excerpt you can get hold of the book here

Romance on the Road

‘I’m glad I caught you, Elisabeth.  I’ve got a proposal for you…’

Words to stir anyone’s heart.  In this case not from Tom Hiddleston (I keep hoping) but the librarian at Macclesfield Library where I do my Tuesday morning writing session.  She asked me if I would be interested in taking part in the Romance on the Road campaign organised jointly by Mills & Boon, The Reading Agency and the Mobile Library Service.

Mills & Boon have had a long involvement with mobile libraries but I didn’t know until I started looking into the campaign that Charles Boon, one of the founders, worked in a mobile library before going into partnership and starting the publishing house.

With all that in mind, and the chance to spread the Mills & Boon love for Valentine’s Day, how could I resist!

As a result, earlier this week found me out bright and early in Cheshire , heading down country lanes that got smaller and more twisty to meet up with Jon and the mobile library. While over 70 mobile libraries are taking part in the event around the country, Cheshire East has been chosen to be one of the ‘Fabulous Five’ with stickers, balloons,sashes for the driver, and gifts to give out to library users.

 

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There was a sticker on the front too!

 

Our first rendezvous was in the car park of the Badger Inn Church Minshull .  I waited, hoping I was in the right place and before long the car park had filled up with a group of eager readers, waiting with piles of books.  I can imagine that if I lived there the tri-weekly visit would be a real highlight for me.  I was excited even waiting once!  The library van arrived decorated with stickers and a poster with my books in the window, the doors slid open and in we went to be greeted with bunting and shiny pink padded envelopes.

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Church Minshull residents joining in a photo opportunity – thank you all.

I had taken along some of my books to discuss and the villagers were particularly impressed with the cover of The Blacksmith’s Wife, especially when I mentioned I had asked for Aidan Turner as the cover model.  They told me that inspired by the recent BBC adaption of Poldark, the village had got together and created a calendar featuring village men in Poldark-y poses.  So far they’ve raised over £2000 which is incredible!

It was wonderful to meet such an enthusiastic crowd and I’m half tempted to move there, if only so I can join the ballroom dancing class!

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If you’re wondering what I’m holding in the photos, they’re Valentine’s gifts that Mills & Boon had sent along.  I had a box  of packages waiting for me inside the library.  It was very hard not to peek to find out which books were inside!

 

 

The residents of Church Minshull went off for their regular post-library coffee in the pub while I looked on enviously.  While we waited for time to leave, we made a display of some of the copies of Mills & Boon titles that were in the library van.

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Some of the Mills & Boon titles that were in the library.  Have you read any of them?

Our next stops were at the two ends of Home Farm Park in Lea where we met residents who live on the park permanently (I was super impressed with Jon’s ability to  reverse park in such small spots).  It was a warm, sunny day so it was nice to stand around with light streaming in through the library door and be able to chat to borrowers (of library books, not small people living under the floorboards).  One of the visitors told me her daughter lives just outside Macclesfield and is a keen reader of historical so I was pleased to be able to give her a copy of The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge which is set in the area.  We spent some time discussing our favourite historical authors and browsing the shelves (the library is impressively stocked with something to suit everyone- a real TARDIS).

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Jon with his special pink sash in the background.

I recommended my favourite author and managed to pick up a copy of a book I’ve been searching for in the process (well I couldn’t spend a morning in a library and not leave with something).

The van had to move on to the next stop and I needed to get back to carry on writing my new story.  Before I said goodbye I did get to wear the sash that I had been coveting since I arrived.

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The closest I’ll get to being Miss World!

The van goes out on three-weekly timetables around villages in Cheshire. The promotion is running until the 14th February and there are still plenty of gift bags to collect before Valentine’s Day itself so keep an eye out for the van with pink stickers heading your way!

Thank you Cheshire East Libraries for inviting me along.  I had a lovely morning and it was great to see how well the library was used.  I’m lucky to have always lived in towns where there is a library and made great use of it, from nipping in on the way home from school as a teenager to fill in time before the bus (and often missing the next as a result of getting absorbed in a book) to taking my own young children as welcome moment of sanity amid sleepless nights and PND.  Not everyone is so lucky to have a library on their doorstep and the Mobile Library Service provides a wonderful way of accessing books for those living too far to get to one regularly.  With funding cuts and libraries being threatened increasingly with closure, keeping services like this going will be so important to people living in more isolated areas.

Libraries, exploring and Mills & Boon- three of my favourite things in one day!

 

The Reading Agency is a charity whose aim is to inspire more people to read.  They do a superb job of encouraging people of all ages to pick up a book and targeting groups who might not have access otherwise.  You can find out more of what they do here.

Medieval Monday: New theme, new style!

We have a new theme for Medieval Mondays and a new way of sharing our excerpts.

The theme is Villains so join us to find some of the nastiest, most ruthless bad guys who ever plagued our heroes and heroines.

Rather than share a whole excerpt in one go each of us is hosting a shorter snippet on our blogs with a link to where the next instalment can be found.  You’ll be able to track the story on its tour from blog to blog and there will be a new excerpt from a different author to read on our own blog each week.

We’re all starting off with our own stories.  My excerpt comes from chapter one of my newest release The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge.

 

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Cheshire, 1068

After a failed uprising, Constance Arnaud is forced to watch the execution of Saxon rebels at the hands of her brother-in-law, Norman nobleman Robert de Coudray.

‘Open your eyes and watch how those who would threaten your King die, girl,’ Robert commanded in an undertone. ‘Don’t shame me before these Saxon savages or I’ll whip the skin from your back.’

Constance raised her head obediently and forced herself to watch as man after man was lifted high alive and cut down a corpse. Some resisted as the knots were pulled tight, one or two looked on the verge of weeping; others walked with dignity to their deaths. Without exception all spat towards the dais where Robert’s household sat, fixing any Norman who met their eye with a loathing that made Constance shiver with fear.

Their deaths were not quick or easy, but if the uprising had not been prevented and they had joined with those in other counties, how slow and degrading would her death at their hands have been? She’d heard the tales of what had happened elsewhere, of children speared in their beds and women shared between the rebels until they begged for death. Even a twist-footed cripple like Constance would not be spared the degradation. Jeanne was right, it was relief she should feel, not pity.

Blurb

At the mercy of her enemy!

Abducted by Saxon outlaws, Constance Arnaud comes face to face with Aelric, a Saxon boy she once loved. He’s now her enemy, but Constance must reach out to this rebel and persuade him to save her life as she once saved his…

Aelric is determined to seek vengeance on the Normans who destroyed his family. Believing Constance deserted him, he can never trust her again. Yet, as they are thrown together and their longing for each other reignites, will Aelric discover that love is stronger than revenge?

To be continued next Monday on Jenna Jaxon’s blog

https://jennajaxon.wordpress.com

 

Buy in the US

Buy in the UK

Come back next week to find out whose villain I’ll be sharing.

In the meantime you can check out the other authors here to find how their excerpts start.

Lane McFarland ~ Rue Allyn ~ Sherry Ewing ~ Jenna Jaxon ~  bambilynnblogAshley York ~ Mary Morgan ~ Barbara Bettis ~ Laurel O’Donnell ~ Cathy MacRae ~ Ruth A. Casie

We’ll be tweeting locations using #medievalhop so you can find out who is where and when.

 

Valentine Giveaway

It’s the season of romance (unless you’re cynical and Northern like me).  To celebrate Valentine’s Day Harlequin are running a giveaway with a difference.

All the authors taking part are giving away a copy of one of their own books and a secret surprise title by another author.  I’m giving away a copy of The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge  and I’ll give you a clue to my secret book-it’s by one of my fellow Unlaced Ladies – all Harlequin Historical authors who manage The Unlaced Book Club where we discuss writing, inspirations and anything else that takes our fancy with a historical or romantic theme.

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The giveaway runs for the whole of February.  Lucky it’s a short month so you won’t have to wait for too long to find out if you’ve won.

You can enter the giveaway here or by clicking the picture and find details of other authors taking part with the hashtag #HarlequinSecretValentine on Twitter.

 

 

 

Medieval Monday

It’s the final excerpt in the Medieval Monday ‘Celebration’ theme.  Next week there is a new theme and an exciting new format so watch this space…

Until then I’m leaving you with The Saxon Bride by Ashley York

Rowena Godwinson, a Saxon princess, refuses to go willingly into a forced marriage to one of King William’s most favored knights but her struggle against enemy occupation fades away in the pleasurable arms of her Norman husband. Will he bring her people to their knees in his attempt to please his liege lord? Or can she win him over to the Saxon’s side even while one of her own plots to overthrow the bastard king?

John of Normandy is a soldier made for battle, ingrained with chivalry and a deep sense of loyalty to his mentor and king. Serving his liege is reward enough. Neither a title nor a child bride will entice him to become an indolent lord. A chance encounter with an alluring beauty, however, releases all his pent up desires and unspoken needs. His young bride has become a passionate woman, tempting him beyond his endurance. Can he win her over before she learns the truth of her father’s death?

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John’s breath against Rowena’s neck sent a shiver down her spine. Knowing now how easily she could be distracted, she fought to keep her head. Those who’d been waiting for the new lord of the manor acknowledged him with some excitement when he entered, Rowena at his side. John accepted their respectful greetings as if he’d always been such a high ranking lord yet Joan had said he was only a knight.

“My lord,” a burly man with a ruddy complexion bowed overly long before them, causing his face to turn even redder. “Accept the greetings of a distant friend. I am Mort of Bedgrove near Aylesbury, at your service.”

“And what would that service be?” John paused beside the extravagantly dressed man. It was not a man Rowena had ever seen before. John’s mouth twitched with humor as he seemed to take in all the fine silk, silver bells and feather adornments in one glance.

The man bowed again before answering. “My lord…” Stepping closer, the man was a head shorter than John but he managed to look him directly in the face when he answered. “Whatever service that you might need.”

John’s humor fled. Rowena sensed a sudden tension between the two men. Their eyes were locked as if sizing each other up. His arm finally relaxed where her fingers lay lightly atop it. Smiling, he tipped his head in acknowledgment and continued on.

Finally reaching the far center wall, John and Rowena took their seats at the long table. It was covered with a clean cloth and adorned with small bunches of the last flowers from the garden. The scene was festive and Rowena’s own spirits seemed to lift as well. It was a time to celebrate. The long awaited lord had finally returned. There would be time later to find out what that would mean to her. For her people, it was time for celebration. A time for peace.

The meal was eaten with the new apple wine Rowena had chosen. The assortment of breads, meats and pies was plentiful. The mead and cider flowed without restraint. All seemed relaxed, happy even. At the tables grouped with eight and ten people each, there was an easy exchange as they talked amongst themselves and the noise level rose as the amount of drink increased. The Normans, however, sat off by themselves and spoke more quietly. They were soldiers after all. Rowena tried to squelch her uneasiness at this realization.

Wondering if John noticed the subdued behavior of his men, she was startled to find his gaze running over her body. Her own breath quickened. It felt as if he were actually touching her. The memory of his touch had left a lasting impression. He wet his lips before taking his goblet to his mouth, opening it right before the cold metal touched his lips. The movement along his throat as he drank mesmerized her. She found herself wanting to put her lips there, to taste him. She looked away. She could never be so bold.

Her response to his looks was quite disconcerting. She cleared her throat.”How do you find your manor after your long absence, my lord?”

John eyebrows shot up. She hadn’t meant to find fault…or maybe she did.

“I was taken aback to find you do not care for the stores and such. Is there a reason you refuse to act as is your right as my wife?”

Her mouth opened slightly at the lie. “My lord, I have been given no such leave. Your king replaced me as chatelaine on his first visit here.”

John searched her face before correcting her. “Our king.”

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Medieval Monday- Rue Allyn

We’re nearing the end of the celebration theme (a new one with some exciting changes is coming soon) so I’m pleased to be able to share this excerpt by Rue Allyn from Knight Defender.

Sent alone to Scotland to wed a wild Scot and serve the needs of her father and her king, Lady Jessamyn intends to escape the marriage and train horses for the good sisters at a nearby nunnery. But her intended is not the wild, boorish monster she imagined – just Baron Raeb MacKai, a man struggling to provide the best for his clan. It could be surprisingly easy to surrender her heart to him, until she learns his plans involve deceiving her family and attacking the king’s ship that bears her brother.

Raeb is done watching everyone he loves live in poverty and despair. His betrothal to a wealthy English heiress will solve a decade of problems, and the Scots’ secret plot to keep King Edward I from getting a foothold on their rugged coastline will secure his family’s future. If he must deny himself the spirited woman who would warm his bed and his heart, so be it.

Neither is willing to give an inch in this clash of loyalties, but can either defend their hearts?

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Deep in thought, Raeb wasn’t certain what Dougal had been saying, but the man didn’t normally stop speaking in mid-sentence.

Evidently Raeb’s failure to reply went unnoticed, for Dougal stood, took a step back from the table, and stared—openmouthed—at something on the other side of the room. Then the silence filling the now crowded main hall struck Raeb. Even the deepest night was never this quiet.

“What is it?” He shifted to peer around Dougal. Raeb’s jaw dropped.

How had she escaped his room?

Dressed in pale green samite, Jessamyn Du Grace glided into the hall. Her carriage was proud and tall, and every stride bespoke confidence in her own worth. On both right and left, she graced his clansmen and women with a sweet expression and a few words, which he couldn’t hear. Though none he could see spoke in response, men and women alike instinctively made way for her. She had no need to pick her way between the crowded benches.

Raeb understood. He’d seen her disembark and treat a horse with unusual concern and kindness for an English noblewoman. He had witnessed her thoughtful consideration for a servant. He’d seen the lady soaking wet and shivering, and somehow no less attractive. He’d witnessed her screeching invectives and sworn retribution. Now the irate passion of the early afternoon was gone and in its place was a kindly interest so alluring it tempted him to drop his cold reception.

She was either a great actress or less than sane to be able to show two such different sides. Clearly she was not to be trusted. Despite their obedience to his edict to shun Lady Du Grace, he could see his clansmen’s fascination with her. They had yet to learn how false the woman was.

All eyes on her, she approached the high table. As she neared the dais, he stood, and the entire hall of folk followed his example. He offered his hand and seated her in the empty chair at his side. He couldn’t tear his gaze away. Silence and a sense of wonder ruled the room where he should have led.

She looked out at the tables below the salt then turned her head in a slow survey of the hall until her gaze met his.

He fell, drowning in green pools.

Her lips moved.

The shape fascinated him. Their deep rose color and plump texture made his fingers itch to stroke them, to hold her downy cheeks, and plunder the sweetness he knew could be his.

Her lips moved again. “When will the meal be served?”

He stared on.

“Uh, now. I believe,” Dougal said from Raeb’s other side.

Jessamyn bent a look of genuine pleasure on Dougal.

Raeb wanted to push his captain from the dais. No man should answer her questions and thus usurp my authority in front of the clan.

He raised his arm, signaling to bring the trenchers. His gesture broke whatever enchantment held his clan silent, and noise once more filled the room. Servants were scarce in Dungarob keep and limited mostly to kitchen and stable hands. Thus, all the men and women of the clan pitched in to get the meal served. His betrothed’s face was serene, but her fingers tapped a rapid dance against the tabletop. Relief spread through him like a slow breath. Those fingers put the lie to her sweet serenity. There was the passionate woman he knew her to be, not the smiling calm she showed to his people. What could he do to expose that eager energy, and mayhap get his people to see her as a harpy instead of an angel?

“Tell me who released you from your prison, so I may punish them.”

“Since you intend punishment, I’ll not betray a kindness.”

Who would have expected her to show loyalty to any MacKai or recognize the kindness of a Scot? He clenched his teeth. “Would you tell me if I swore no to do more than scold?”

She shook her head. “Scolding is not warranted. The wo … person sought only to be helpful.”

He narrowed his gaze. “If ’twas a woman then ’twas one of my sisters. I’ll put them all on bread and water until the guilty one confesses.” He’d never do so—he knew his sisters would find a way around such a ridiculous threat.

To emphasize his words and help Jessamyn believe he meant them, however, he placed his hand heavily over hers. Beneath his touch her wrist jerked, and her fingers stilled. As his rough palm rested atop her silken skin, sensation jolted up his arm. If he didn’t do something quickly, he’d sink under her spell again.

She glared at him and slipped her hand from beneath his. “You would never do that to your sisters. You love them too much.”

She could only know that if she’d spent time with his siblings. “Hah. So it was one of my interfering sisters. Let’s see if I can deduce which one. Maeve was busy tending to Rhuad MacFearann.”

“I saw the fight from the chamber window,” Jessamyn remarked.

Was she trying to distract him?

“Your sister Neilina fares well,” the lady continued. “How is the poor man she defended?”

“He’s well enough.” Raeb studied her. “How did you know his defender was my sister Neilina?”

“I … I must have heard her name as I entered the hall just now. Though most of your people were silent and stared. Really, I do not understand the manners here. Are all Scots so rude or just the MacKai clan?”

“You make a good attempt to divert my attention, but I know better. ’Twas Artis who released you.”

“You cannot possibly know that.”

“Aye, I can. When I came to the table, Dougal related that Artis wanted him to tell me Neilina was resting and well. Since Maeve, who is our healer, had no time to see to Neilina, ’twould be like Artis to seek help from another quarter. Especially if she thought she could get away with releasing you for that reason.”

Jessamyn straightened and her gaze hardened. “Why would your sister need a reason other than common courtesy to release me from an unwarranted imprisonment?”

He returned her gaze in equal measure. “Because I locked you in there and gave no permission for your release.”

“’Tis a blessing then that your sister considers her other sibling’s care more important than the need for permission.”

“No when Artis could have tended Neilina herself. She cares for all the injured creatures at Dungarob and is near as good a healer as Maeve.”

Jessamyn blinked.

“Aye, that gives you pause, does it no? My youngest sister is up to something. When she gets a notion into her head, she doesna give it up and rarely shares her thoughts until ’tis too late to stop her.”

“So you will not punish her?”

“’Twould be no point. She’d think naught of any punishment I would be willing to impose. You, however, will return to my chamber immediately after supper.”

Jessamyn stiffened. “I’ll not surrender my virtue without marriage.”

He captured her gaze. “None would object; we are betrothed. What matter if we anticipate the vows by a month or two?” He’d no intention of taking her virtue now or at any other time. Oh, the idea was appealing, but the consequences were not desirable. However, he wanted to see her reaction.

“It matters a great deal to me, and I object most strongly.”

She was blushing. Was it anger, embarrassment, or desire that caused the delicate pink in her cheeks?

He shrugged. “’Tis of no import to me. I’ll send that screeching maid of yours to you tonight, and you may bar the door from inside, if you fear for your honor.”

“I would defend my virtue to the death.”

“’Tis sure I am you would, but ’twill no be necessary. If we are to wed, I want you to know me well enough to come willing to my bed.”

She opened her mouth then closed it, clearly nonplused.

“To that end,” he continued. “I’ve been thinking we should put off our vows until midsummer.” If his intent was to cause her to break the betrothal, he’d best start as he meant to go on. Life with seven sisters had taught him that nothing upset a woman as much as having her plans rearranged.

Jessamyn’s head jerked round, her mouth open on a silent “o.”

So I’ve surprised her. Good, but why is she no angry?

Then the blush fading from her cheeks and a beatific smile were all that remained of the emotions she’d revealed. Even that disappeared as he watched.

She shrugged and faced forward. “If it pleases you.”

“’Twill give us time to get to know each other better, and for you to become familiar with the customs of Clan MacKai.”

“I am happy to know the MacKai clan and learn its customs better. However, since ours is an arranged match, I doubt that knowing you better at this point will be important.” She spoke with an indifferent monotone then bit her lip in an unconscious gesture of nerves.

Raeb frowned inwardly. This was not proceeding as he wished. He wanted her irate and storming for all to see. He must keep the upper hand and not forget the true purpose of this sham betrothal.

“Surely you wish to get along with your husband? Knowing and honoring me can only increase my clan’s respect and affection for you.”

The trenchers finally arrived.

As if his words meant nothing deserving response, she bent her head and opened the velvet pouch tied to her belt.

Idly, Raeb pulled off a piece of bread, chewing slowly as he watched her.

She withdrew a palm-length decorated box and set it on the table beside her plate. Releasing the delicately wrought latch, she revealed a silver stick with one end split into two long, sharp points.

“What is that?”

She lifted her head and stared at him, her mouth curving into a deeper smile. “’Tis a fork.” She lifted the shining metal into her hand and offered it to him.

His brows drew together, and he gently pushed her hand away. “A fork. I heard of such from crusaders I met while fostering. Most said it was a Saracen device meant for weaklings and ladies.”

“Hmm, you imply that ladies are weak, Baron.” She gripped the fork, turning the points downward, then speared a piece of meat.

He bent to his meal, speaking in between bites. “Verily, no all women are weak. Eleanor of Aquitaine, Boudicca, and Queen Scathach come to mind, but they were exceptional.”

“I’ve never heard of Queen Scathach. However, I’ll concede that she, like the others, was exceptional in many ways. Because they are, they also show what every woman is capable of given need or opportunity.”

“Yet none of those legendary women was especially interested in her husband. I gather you intend to emulate their disinterest?” His voice went soft.

Around them his men and sisters stilled in anticipation of an explosion. Would she notice?

Lady Du Grace shrugged and sipped her mead.

“Answer my question, please.”

“I’ve not yet decided.”

When she moved to spear another bite, he took her hand, halting her movement and forcing her to look at him. “Decide now.”

Surely that demand would fire her temper, burn her calm to ash, and break the spell she’d cast over his clan.

She turned to face him and raised an imperious brow, reminding him forcibly of her royal godparent.

“In my experience, excessive familiarity with one’s spouse is not necessary to command respect from others. I will be your wife. I have no special need to understand you in order to support your leadership of your clan or your position as baron.” She retrieved her hand, giving a dismissive wave then addressing her meal.

Raeb ground his teeth. Her casual indifference bordered on rudeness—though he admitted he had given her reason. But she behaved so only to him. Thus far none in his clan had spoken to her, but their obvious interest did not argue well for their continued cooperation. She was trying to win them over, and doing a fair job. He kenned not what game she played, but he would find out. Meanwhile he would bedevil her with good manners—he could do that and still be cold. ’Twould keep her off balance, mayhap enough to lose her temper. He wanted his people to see her serene demeanor for the lie it was.

Like a good host he held forth with a stream of information about Dungarob, its surroundings, and its people. She listened in silence until the meal ended. When she pushed back from the table to rise, he once more placed a hand over hers. This time her outward reaction was more placid, but her fingers trembled beneath his.

“’Tis time you met my family. You must forgive me for not introducing my sisters earlier.”

She cast her gaze upward and heaved a great sigh as if mightily put upon. “If it pleases you.”

He smiled. Let her think she has me fooled. However, to please myself, I’ll strip her bare of all pretense before I’m done with her. No Englishwoman will get the better of Raeb MacKai.

He gestured for the several females seated farther down the table to attend him. One by one they came forward to assemble before him in a line from tallest to smallest.

“My lady, you’ve already met Lady Neilina, who is still resting, so allow me to introduce my other sisters, ladies Maeve, Bridghe, Keeva, and Seona. Lady Artis should be here but has chosen no to join us, probably because she knows I am no pleased with her. I also regret I canna introduce you to Sorcha, who is nearest to me in age. She recently married and now lives as countess at Strathnaver Stronghold many leagues inland.”

He smiled. Knowing how his sisters bedeviled him, he doubted anyone could match them, and certainly not an English lady, even if Jessamyn Du Grace was not quite what he expected.

 

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What’s in a name?

I was a chapter and a half into a WIP when I realised something wasn’t working. After redrafting and editing and still getting nowhere with what I knew could be a great story it dawned on me the problem wasn’t with the story but with the heroine. I just wasn’t feeling her (unlike the hero who was more than happy to have a go much earlier than I was expecting him to, though that’s another story…) and I realised it came down to one reason: her name.

I had inadvertently chosen the name of a real person I had once known and instead of picturing my heroine I had a subconscious mental image of someone who most definitely didn’t deserve to get her hands on my hero.  As soon as I went back to the drawing board and renamed the character the scenes began to come together.

Names are funny things. However much I plan, I can’t get down to the business of writing the story unless I’ve found the right name. I estimate I’ve spent as much time choosing names for my characters as I did for my children*, though for them I had the whole of history to go at rather that medieval England. I try to use authentic names for my characters.  I can happily spend hours poring over documents from the time for inspiration so you’ll never find a Lady Chardonnay or Sir Kevin but I’ve also developed a few rules too.

Rule 1. Heroines can have two syllable names but heroes should be called something short, or a name that can be shortened (nicknames and dropping titles is a way I like to show the growing intimacy between the characters).

My first hero, Hugh in Falling for Her Captor was named after Hugh Jackman – which probably indicates where my mind was while I was writing. I like single syllables that to me at least sound a bit tough and masculine to say out loud: Hugh, Will, Hal. Rhett… Han… Jon… Thor (?!?)…

Four books in I’ve already broken this rule with the hero of The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge with a hero called Aelric who goes by the alias Caddoc but finding a one-syllable Anglo-Saxon name proved almost impossible (and be thankful he isn’t called Aethilberct).

I’ve slightly backed myself into a corner with my next book to be released because when I wrote The Blacksmith’s Wife I didn’t intend Roger to be anything more than the villain (perhaps having a name that became slang for penis is part of the reason he was so bitter).  Now he’s got his own book as readers were intrigued by him and is saddled with a less than heroic sounding name even though the Germanic origin means ‘’renown + spear’ which fits his ambition to be a great jouster well. Isn’t that a lucky coincidence!

Rule 2. After hours spent with my spellcheck trying to change my second hero Will Rudhale’s tenses, I added a new which is never use a name that is also a verb (‘Do you mean ‘will try’ not ‘Will tried’? No I ****ing don’t, nor did I the last 27 times!)

Rule 3. Avoid the Dickensian ‘Mr Nastyb*stard, official puppy kicker of London Town’ method of indicating character through names.  Having said that I’m having to seriously resist following the suggestion of Baron Longden Hardthrust of Broadshaft Hall.

Rule 4. The biggie. Avoid the names of friends and family. Especially men. Mainly because I have a low embarrassment threshold and don’t ever want to have the ‘so that’s me in the book is it?’ conversation (which amazingly I’ve had even when the names don’t match). Chances are if I know you then you are in there somewhere because all writers are magpies and collect mannerisms, features and conversations but whether you’re the love interest, villain or comic relief I absolutely refuse to say!

 

*One named for a series of inventors, the other after a character in Buffy the Vampire Slayer if you’re interested.

 

Do you have a favourite character name, or one that turns you straight off the book? Do share in the comments.

Medieval Monday- Introducing Laurel O’Donnell

Christmas is over but that doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy a bit of Yule magic.  Here is the wonderful Laurel O’Donnell with Mistletoe Magic

A confident knight arrives home to find his childhood friend grown into much more than he remembered. The lady of the castle keeps a dangerous secret that threatens all she holds dear. Will Mistletoe Magic save them?

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Yuletide. It had always made Jaclyn Fainwick excited and happy with the potential of what the future held. This one day, amongst all the rest, was when every hope, every dream could come true. She loved this day above all the rest in the year.

She sat before the hearth in the Great Hall, waiting for the festivities to begin, swinging her feet back and forth. She had been waiting for most of the day. Her father would come, and her mother, and her brother. All the people she loved would be together on this day. No matter where they were or what they were doing, they would always gather together on the Yuletide.

She twisted and looked behind the large wooden chair she sat in. The shadows at the back of the Hall were getting long as the sun set, stretching dark fingers into the Great Hall. But no one was coming. She turned back and clutched her hands in her lap. If she were very good, her father would bring her something wonderful. A strand of her long dark hair had pulled free of the braid at her back and she swatted it back in place.

The flames danced in the hearth, warming her. She had been alive for ten Yuletides, this would make her eleventh, enough to know that the Yule log would soon be burned. It wouldn’t be long now.

Around her, the servants cleared the tables from the feast. A dog rushed beneath the table to gobble up a scrap of the duck that had fallen.

Suddenly, booted footsteps echoed down the hall.

Her stomach lurched with excitement and Jaclyn turned to see her friend, Alexander, run into the Great Hall, followed by her brother, Paul. She sat back in disappointment. Alexander reached her side first, skidding to a halt on the rushes.

“I told you she’d be in here,” Paul said, stopping at her other side. He was out of breath as if he had run a far distance. His brown hair was in a disarray on his head; his blue jupon was askew, his black boots dirty.

Alexander looked at her and grinned.

Jaclyn’s heart lurched at his twinkling blue eyes, as it always did. Even at thirteen summers, Alexander was the most handsome boy she had ever met. His blonde hair reached to his shoulders and always had just the right amount of wave to it. He was not dressed as nicely as Paul, but he carried himself with more confidence. He usually wore a leather vest and black leggings, the same he was wearing on this Yuletide.

He met her gaze. “Your father is coming,” he said with restrained exuberance.

She turned in her chair to face the door.

“I was going to tell her,” Paul complained.

It didn’t matter who told her. Outside the door in the hallway, Jaclyn heard heavy footsteps. It sounded like the entire village was with her father! She could barely sit still in her exhilaration. A moment skipped by and then her father appeared. He was the tallest man of all the men following behind him, his shoulders broad, his hair dark. He was surrounded by knights and villagers. They entered the hall behind him as he walked toward her.

She stood to greet him.

“My dove,” he whispered and greeted her with a hug.

She embraced him.

He pulled back to look at her. “Before we light the Yule log, I want to give you this. You have been a very good girl this year, and a wonderful daughter.” He held something out to her.

Jaclyn hadn’t noticed he was carrying anything. She looked down to see he was holding a branch with green leaves and white berries. She gasped, “It’s beautiful!” and took the branch from his hand.

“The berries reminded me of the winter snow,” her father said softly.

Jaclyn nodded. “But the green leaves belong in the summer!” She looked up at him. “The trees have long since lost their leaves. Where did you find it?”

“I had to travel very far to find it.” he told her, leaning in to add, “It’s magical.”

“Like Yuletide!” Jaclyn gasped.

Her father smiled and nodded. “That’s why I brought it to you now. Keep it safe, child.”

Jaclyn nodded and hurried through the villagers and gathered guests. She paused to glance back at her father. He was silhouetted before the warm hearth fire, his arms on his hips, watching her. She curtseyed slightly. “Thank you, Father.”

He dipped his head in a nod.

Jaclyn knew the perfect place to keep it safe. The perfect spot for it. She raced to her room and flung a cloak about her shoulders. She paused to stare at the branch. It was amazing. Summer and winter, all rolled up into one glorious plant. She gently touched one of the berries.

“Father’s going to light the Yule log.”

Buy Mistletoe Magic

Things that aren’t romantic.

My husband and I have an ongoing debate about whether certain things are romantic or not (buying flowers, meals out, taking your own wine glass to the kitchen at bedtime…)

One of our occasional disagreements is over the Roy Orbison song ‘Drove All Night’.

For anyone who doesn’t know the song it’s about a bloke who decides he misses his girlfriend/wife/partner so drives to her/their house through the night.  He arrives in the morning (no mention of pausing for a shower after a six r seven hour car journey)and wakes her up for sex.   He is proud of this fact.

I’m fairly sure that you can tell from my synopsis which side of the debate I come down on.

Stopping someone having a lie in because you were feeling horny is not something to be proud of.

‘I drove all night, crept in your room, woke you from your sleep, to make love to you.’

Umm… no.  That’s you feeling entitled to a reward for unasked for spontaneity.

Try driving all night, creeping in with a pot of tea (and a bacon sandwich if you’re really pressed for time), leaving it by the bed then GOING AWAY FOR HALF AN HOUR.

Then you might be in with a shot (bonus points if you make a start on tidying the kitchen while you’re waiting).

Anyway, here’s the video, which is pretty cool.

I’m unlikely to ever use it as a book inspiration because I promise that whatever my heroes do to show their devotion it will never involve interrupting sleep.

Tell me your least romantic romantic gestures?

On the subject of romance, next month is Valentine’s Day.  I’ll be running a special giveaway for a chance to win a copy of The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge so watch this space.

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